Oh, Auntie Em—there’s no place like home.
From classic dishes as American as apple pie to red, white, and blue touches that are sure to bring a tear to any patriot’s eye, one thing rings true from sea to shining sea—America’s birthday is the perfect occasion for a party, and Americana at its best is sure to win the popular vote. Sit back, enjoy a glass of Firecracker Punch, and drink in these Independence Day party tips from ten of the nation’s best caterers and event designers—all Les Pages honorees.
Peter Callahan’s Party Food Popsicles. Photo: Con Poulos
Peter Callahan, Peter Callahan Catering, New York: “I love creating a sparkler moment for the Fourth of July. For example, line sparklers down the middle of your table so they stick out of arrangements, and light them after dark when your guests are seated. Add mini sparklers to wedges of miniature red, white, and blue layer cakes, and create the ultimate fun and festive photo moment. I also love serving my patriotic-themed strawberry, coconut, and Curacao popsicles, which will be featured in my new book.”
Robert Fountain, Robert Fountain International, San Francisco: “When I entertain, I want to enjoy the party. I don’t feel that standing over a stove or grill all day makes you a good host. There are so many great ways to get really good food delivered to your door, and your guests will think you cooked all week. One of my go-to food websites is Goldbely.com, which makes local foods available to everyone. You can serve all your favorite things from all over the country—the best BBQ all the way down to the apple pie with ice cream. So fun! And always send your guests away with a little something. One of my favorites is a moon pie and bottled Coke in a paper lunch bag tied with red, white, and blue ribbon.”
A Fourth of July party designed by David Monn
David Monn, David Monn Events, New York: “Dress up traditional Independence Day fare with a luxurious spin on corn on the cob. Opt for flint corn over sweet corn (which adds color to your plate and can be used to decorate your tabletop), garnish with le beurre d’Echiré and fleur de sel, and don’t forget to serve with corn holders. My favorites are Josef Hoffman’s sterling-silver designs—they add a quirkiness to the already light atmosphere of a BBQ. For décor, add a pop of color to your outdoor soirée by filling large balloons with nitrogen and anchoring them to the bottom of the pool with fishing line and brick. Simple and stunning.”
Myra Adkins, Word of Mouth Catering, Austin: “Aguas frescas are a must-have for any July Fourth celebration. Fun, refreshing combinations like Watermelon-Basil, Mango-Mint, and Blueberry-Lemonade are delicious and can be spiked or enjoyed as a mocktail. For food, a twist on classic favorites is always a great choice. Quick bites like caramel-covered popcorn with pistachios are a play on Cracker Jacks, an All-American favorite, and apple or peach hand pies round out the meals as bite-sized, seasonal treats that are sure to please your guests.”
Carla Ruben’s Boozy Bike
Carla Ruben, Creative Edge Parties, New York and Miami: “The Fourth of July is the perfect holiday for al-fresco dining. We love gathering our friends and family outside to celebrate in festive ways. One of my personal favorites is a boozy bike stocked with vodka sodas, gin and tonics, and seltzer waters with loads of fresh-cut fruits like peaches, watermelon, and raspberries that people can add to their drinks. It’s the ultimate roaming summer cocktail bar.”
Leslie Mastin, Leslie Mastin Events, New York: “July Fourth is about tradition, and what’s more nostalgic than a traditional hoedown? Think bunting on the front porch, red, white, and blue bandanas hung on a barbed-wire fence, and festive patriotic tunes. Go all out with the details. We once designed a watering hole complete with bales of hay covered in denim (for seating) around a windmill and fashioned an old flat-bed truck into a serving station lined with fun carafes with spigots full of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.”
The Freedom Mule by McCalls Catering. Photo: Albert Law
Melinda Lopez, McCalls Catering & Events, San Francisco: “What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than by toasting to the red, white, and blue? Wow your guests with festive and patriotic-inspired cocktails by utilizing seasonal fruits and herbs that reflect the bright flavors of summer. Mix up one of our favorites—a vibrant red-hued Freedom Mule by muddling 1-½ oz. fresh strawberries with two mint leaves in a mixing tin. Add 2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. fresh lime juice, and shake. Pour over ice in a rocks glass, top with ginger beer, and garnish with a sprig of mint.”
Patrick Clayton, Patrick J Clayton Productions, New York: “The best way to decorate any Independence Day table is with food and drinks! Keep it simple and the impact will be big—use blue linen, red containers, and white flowers. There’s also nothing more refreshing than a Watermelon Margarita. For my favorite spin, muddle four 1-inch cubes fresh watermelon and agave nectar, add 2 oz. Astral Tequila, and 1 oz. fresh lime juice to taste, and shake with ice. Garnish with chunks of Astral-soaked watermelon. Delicious!”
A poke bar by An Catering
Catherine An, An Catering, Los Angeles: “With bikini season in full swing, we recommend keeping it on the healthier side with a fun poke bar inspired by our 50th state. The preparation is easy—no grilling required—and the result is easy on the waistline and full of flavor. In addition to the main ingredient, poke, you can choose your own adventure with exotic ingredients ranging from a variety of seafood to various add-ins like Mama’s garlic rice, soy-activated charcoal sauce, red jalapeño garlic aioli, fermented chilies, toasted sesame seeds, ginger, edamame, carrots, chives, and kimchi.”
Margaret Teskey, Taste Catering, San Francisco: “July Fourth is a holiday akin to Thanksgiving in that it speaks to American tradition. I find that every year our clients and guests are most excited about American mainstays like pulled pork BBQ, cold fried chicken, grilled corn on the cob ‘bites’, deviled eggs with candied bacon, fingerling potato salad, house-made buttermilk biscuits, and classic desserts like peach or blackberry cobbler and fresh-baked cookies. We also recommend using miniature picnic baskets to house napkins or flatware and displaying food platters on galvanized metal pails and washtubs of various sizes to add height and depth to your buffet table.”
Happy birthday, America!
July Fourth Entertaining Story “Welcome Cocktail”
This story’s “welcome cocktail” was made using these classic ingredients:
Classic photo: Marilyn Monroe, 1945
Classic quote: The Wizard of Oz, 1939